Truth and Mercy Have Met

Posted April 25th, 2011 by

How do we endure the scars?

I just spent an amazing week attending a STAR seminar at Eastern Mennonite University. Tom DeWolf, who is a STAR alumnus, recommended that I attend. He thought it would be useful to our book writing process. He was definitely right about that!

The STAR acronym stands for “Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience.” The one-week, first level course teaches how to recognize trauma, how to deal with it and how to break the cycles of violence that fuel it. The foundation principles come from Psalms 85:10: “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed.” The STAR model is at the root of the healing journey we are documenting in our book.

Although not promoted as “therapy,” what I learned in the STAR sessions was invaluable to my personal understanding of the traumas I have experienced in my life as well as the transgenerational effect of the traumas my ancestors endured during slavery.

One of the key lessons revolved around the concept of forgiveness. To illustrate the power of forgiveness, a video (“The Power of Forgiveness“) was shown about a family who spent many years grieving over the loss of a female relative — a young mother who was kidnapped, raped and murdered by two 15 year old boys. The victim’s mother and daughter engaged a process to meet and reconcile with one of the perpetrators. Their most fervent wish was to know what happened in the last moments of the victim’s life, before she was shot three times in the head. The perpetrator told them her last words were “I forgive you and God does too.” Over the course of the video, the transformation experienced by all was palpable.

After viewing the film, there was a great deal of discussion about how we would deal with a situation like this. Most of us felt that, if we personally were attacked or violated, forgiveness would be possible. If it were someone we loved — especially a child — we would be less inclined.

On my part, I had flashbacks of experiences accumulated over a lifetime. There have been heart wounds and infractions aplenty over the course of six decades. On top of that, I have to add tangential abuses shared by me and contemporary loved ones. On top of that, there are two centuries of slavery and an ensuing hundred years of mind-boggling racism. Taking it all into account, the best I can do right now is reach an intellectual understanding. Unlike before, when my first inclination would be to seek revenge, I can now accept that forgiveness is both worthwhile and honorable. However, I am still mining my soul for the internal fortitude that will make actual forgiveness possible. This remains one of the issues I hope to work through as Tom and I continue on our journey to Gather at the Table.

In the final analysis, truth and mercy have definitely met. I’m hoping for justice and peace to kiss so that the cycle can be broken.

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